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Awesomenauts (Xbox 360) artwork

Awesomenauts (Xbox 360) review

"Though many games share the core mechanics that Awesomenauts is built upon, thereís simply nothing else out there like it right now."

The core principle behind Awesomenauts may not be especially new when boiled down to its core mechanics. Itís a multiplayer death match, aided by slower, weaker and constantly spawning AI, and the idea is to bypass a number of armed obstacles to gain access to and destroy the enemy base. Turns out, itís one of those action-based real-time strategies that have become so popular over on the PC with titles like Defence of the Ancients and League of Legends.

Awesomenauts (Xbox 360) image

What sets Awesomenauts apart is how it was obviously designed with the issues PC-to-console ports all constantly suffer. To that end, gone is the ugly overhead view and limited colour pallets, and in comes a new side view perspective and a much brighter presentation. Equipped with a more arcade feel, you can almost hear the elitist PC strat crowd chortling amongst themselves about how their new golden genre had to be watered down for the console Neanderthals. Hell, letís ask one:

Leslie: "Ho ho ho -- looks like they had to take all the brainwork out and leave you slobbering twits with another mindless shooter. It is, after all, all you understand!"

Well, while Leslie goes back to not being able to play X-Com right, there are two things to keep in mind:

1/ Sheís still really bitter I destroyed her at Neptuneís Pride.

2/ Sheís horribly, horribly wrong.

I donít blame people that come to that conclusion, but Awesomenauts exhibits a surprising amount of strategy that actively rewards cerebral players and goes out of its way to punish people who play it as a balls-out shooter. You start each game with either of the three selectable characters (with another three to be unlocked, and new ones promised via DLC) as a basic shell and itís up to you how you ultimately build them. Clunk is the typical tank; heís a slow-plodding monstrosity with a missile launcher grafted on to his arm. By collecting the gameís currency, Solar, you can slowly dial up his abilities. Base stats like speed, health and power are catered for, but it's each characterís individual skills that probably deserve the most focus. Clunk has the ability to win a lot of standing firefights; his fire rate is slow, but itís powerful, has a better range than the rest of the cast, and he can soak up the most damage. You can also buy him a metallic chomp attack that vacuums in nearby targets, steals a chunk of their health and transfers it back to him. You can further upgrade this in many ways, but my favourite is to add a bind effect that freezes the bitten foe to the spot for a few seconds. It works great when paired with his second attack; an area-of-effect self detonation. Being bound makes this attack very hard to dodge. But, hell, be sadistic; add a slow status to anyone caught in the field, should you wish, just to make sure no one gets out alive.

Thatís one build out of many available. You can chose which perks are available to purchase at the start of each game, and each of the cast have unique traits that manage to just about balance the field out perfectly. Every character is viable; Lonestar is an aging human sheriff wielding dual laser revolvers and gifted with the ability to summon a phantom bull that can bump enemies out of his path. This is great for clearing an amassed enemy force from attacking a turret, but is equally brilliant at pushing them into range of ally enemy attacks, or even for shoving retreating enemies back into the turret's range should they try to make a break for it.

Scoring a kill means getting a sizable Solar bonus, which is why gung-ho players often doom their entire team by granting the opposition piles of free resources with each death. Thereís very little gain from running head-first into turrets, so your best bet is to wait for the AI drones to attack, so they can be used as convenient meat shields while you plough your own offence in. This might mean escorting them, as they come under attack from enemy drones or forces, but even this can be done in different ways. Froggy G can use his aquatic hip-hop powers to smash advancing forces with differing charge attacks. Gaelic samurai chameleon, Leon, uses his cybernetic sword arm to slice chunks out of the enemy when heís not shedding his skin to leave a handy decoy in his place while he stalks the field invisible. Voltar canít offer up as much offence as the rest of the party, but he can use his healing powers to grant his AI chums near immortality when scaled right, and amass a small army of drones that will strip turrets in seconds if not stopped.

What really makes Awesomenauts work is the sense of balance the current cast of six shows; in their own way, each member is a clearly viable choice but not so anyone really rides roughshod over anyone else. It helps that so many of the little details are nailed perfectly; Froggy G quotes out-of-context popular rap lyrics as mocks when he kills someone, while Yuri, a Russian space monkey with a jet pack and an oscillating laser beam with 360į control, has a Soviet anthem as a victory song.

The goofy, cartoony presentation will initially ease you into the trap of expecting little cerebral action in Awesomnauts, but youíll be proven very wrong, very quickly. Ronimoís light hearted veneer belies a deceptive strategic heart that players will ignore at their peril. In that, it brings something completely new, not just to the knuckle-dragging world of consoles, but to the world in general. Though many games share the core mechanics that Awesomenauts is built upon, thereís simply nothing else out there like it right now.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (June 10, 2012)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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JoeTheDestroyer posted June 14, 2012:

Haha! Great review! I chuckled a few times.
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Masters posted June 14, 2012:

Wow, excellent review, dude. Another nice 'comeback.' Who is this 'Leslie' you speak of? BTW, was this an intentional play on words, or an Emp typo: "which is why gun-ho players..."
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EmP posted June 14, 2012:

Thanks, guys. Now buy the game so I have people to play alongside I can bully into underlings!

And, yeah, Marc, that was a poor attempt at a pun that I don't think works. You're not the first to just assume it was a typo, so I've edited it out.
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zippdementia posted June 14, 2012:

Wow. This review has the distinction of getting me interested in several games over the course of one read, Neptune's Pride among them (which I think I shall sign up for this weekend). Also it's got style, personality, and takes a certain perverse pride in itself that I appreciate. That's all basic EMP stuff, though. It also happens to have sold me on Awesomenauts, a game I have tried to avoid because I was afraid I would be disappointed in it.
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Masters posted June 14, 2012:

Emp: I didn't assume it was a typo; I just considered that it might be. I actually thought, "hey, I think he's being clever here--or is he?"
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EmP posted June 15, 2012:

I got that from you, old chum, but enough other people have pointed it out as a typo for me to figure it's not working as well as I thought it would.

ADDEM: Get yourself a bit of NP practise, Zipp, and maybe I'll take you on in a game or two.

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